May and June are the months of graduation from grammar schools, high schools and colleges. Graduation is a very significant step in life for young people as they go forth filled with insights into themselves and life, in new directions with a great spirit of hope. It is my special joy, as the Bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, to congratulate all of the graduates from the schools within our Diocese, no matter what level of education they have achieved and no matter in what school they have achieved it. I wish all God’s blessings as you continue on the path you have chosen for the future, no matter what that may be. I also congratulate your parents and thank them for all they have done for you and continue to do. There is no greater source of education than from our families. I know how grateful you, as young people, are to your parents, as we all are, for the loving sacrifices they have made for you.
I would like to reflect upon some words which our Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke to the young people of Budapest during his pilgrimage to Hungary a few weeks ago in the latter part of April. These words are most fitting for those who are graduating. The Pope expressed to the young people, “You may well ask: How do we win in life? Just as in sports, there are two basic steps. First, aim high, then train.”
It is very important to aim high in life. However, aiming high does not mean to achieve what I want for my own good, especially when it affects the good of others. Aiming high always includes the best for others, as it does on a sports team. We seek to make the world a better place. As we look around our world today, we see many challenges and disappointments. We are too familiar with the violence, the political unrest, the lack of faith in God and the lack of true moral values which come from God, and the manner in which He created the world with the human person as its pinnacle. We very much need to aim high to address these matters in a way that makes a difference in our lives and those of others.
Pope Francis told the young people in Hungary to look inside of themselves to the talents, abilities and good qualities that they possess. That message is a good one for you, as graduates. During your years of education, you have discovered those abilities and talents and now have the opportunity to strengthen them in order to make the world a better place. We are relying upon you to do this. Always discover yourself, as God created you to be, and use the talents and abilities which God has given to you. God made you in a particular way for a particular reason, and to be faithful to this is to aim high. The teenager, Blessed Carlo Acutis, who is up for canonization as a saint, expressed, “All people are born as originals, but many die as photocopies.” The great St. Francis DeSales said, “Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” Aiming high is not being selfish when it is aiming for the good of all people as God created us.
Pope Francis told the young people in Hungary that, as in sports, we need to train if we truly wish to win in life. He specifically exhorted, “How do you train? Through dialogue with Jesus, who is the best of coaches. He listens to you, encourages you, believes in you. Did you know that? Jesus believes in you and is able to bring out the best in you. He constantly invites you to be a team player, never alone but with others; this is very important. If you want to mature and grow in life, always be a team player, in the community, sharing your experience with others.”
The Pope also emphasized that we live in a very noisy world with so much going on around us. We live with other people, the media and all forms of instant communication telling us what to do, who we are and what we should be, and always interpreting world events, not as they happen but as they are viewed. We need time to be quiet in order to speak with Jesus and to look into ourselves. We need to be quiet, not by concentrating on our cellphones, but by entering into the world as God created it, enjoying the gift of nature, praying and talking to the Lord. When we spend so much time before the computer, it is important to also spend time before the tabernacle. Pope Francis said, “Life is real, not virtual. It does not take place on a screen, but in the world! Please do not ‘virtualize’ life!”
It is essential to speak with others so that we can actually hear what they have to say. Pope Francis emphasized, “Don’t be afraid to swim against the current, to make room for a moment of silence each day, a moment to stop and pray. Nowadays, we are bombarded with a message that we have to be fast, efficient and practically perfect, like machines — even though, dear friends, we are not machines! … Here though, I would also say: be careful not to indulge in moodiness or brood over your troubles. Don’t waste time thinking about who did this or that to me, questioning other people’s motives. That is not good or healthy either; in fact, it is poisonous, and best avoided.”
Again, it is my joy to congratulate all of you who are graduating, with my prayerful wish for all the best for the future. We are very proud of you. You make a difference and will continue to do so. May you always win by first, aiming high, and then training. With God as part of your life, you cannot lose! May the Lord continue to bless you!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 19, 2023